T3 46: Top 10 Series Finales

How about that 30 Rock finale, huh? Pretty sweet. There are a few ways to end a series, the most popular of which is cancellation. But the few that do get to go out on their own terms have some tough choices to make: Do they dramatically end everything? Do they get sentimental, reflecting on how far they came and maybe even bring back some long-lost characters? Or do they just simply suggest that despite the show ending, things will always be the same for our beloved characters? Find out how we’d prefer a show to end and who did it best this week, as we count down our favorite last episodes.

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Fade Into Yo

Yo La Tengo – Fade

And now I will confirm Sean’s theory that I gravitate towards music from the ’80s and ’90s by reviewing the latest Yo La Tengo record.  This band’s kind of an odd case in the world of indie rock, a genre that seems to be enamored with the latest scene and subgenre, while few bands seem to stick around for the long haul.  And yet Yo La Tengo are now in their fourth decade of existence and have somehow managed to remain fairly relevant after many of their peers have burned out or faded into complete obscurity.  And like most albums by middle aged rock bands, Fade is far from a revelation, but it’s filled with a kind of wistful quality that finds the band at ease with their place as indie elder statesman.

Despite my respect for Yo La Tengo, I think I’ve come to appreciate them more a “singles band” than one who’s albums I’ve spent a ton of time with.  As a lot of their albums are a bit too meandering, but I’ll be damned if tracks like “Autumn Sweater” or “Our Way To Fall” don’t rank for me among the most endearing love songs in recent memory.  So I suppose that explains why this album’s lead-off track “Ohm” is a song that I am thoroughly all about, while I’m just fine with the rest of the album.

I suppose the kind of Yo La Tengo that resonates with me are the hazy jams the culminated in 1993’s Painful (my favorite Yo La Tengo record), and there isn’t as much of that here.  On Fade we get a more subdued version of the band which has definitely come to the forefront with these last few albums.  Still, it’s hard to complain when most of the songs are pretty in that kind of fragile way that only Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley can deliver in a poppy indie ballad.  One thing that kind of elevates Fade for me in regards to the last few Yo La Tengo records is it’s brevity, as most of their recent albums seem to feature at least a song or two that breaches the ten minute mark and usually clocks in at over an hour.  Fade on the other hand clocks in at a lean 45 minutes, and sees these guys continuing to hone their knack for crafting make-out music for awkward hipsters.

Favorite Tracks: “Ohm”, “Well You Better”, “Stupid Things”

Love is Like Foxygen

Foxygen – We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic

Oh, I get it “Fox” and “Oxygen” makes “Foxygen”. Well done Foxygen, well done. Surely, I never would have discovered this duo had it not been for Pitchfork and it’s powerful hipster-music radar. What sparked my interest in this album was the retro sound. I appreciate 60s psychedelia for its fearlessness to go to unconventional places. With a title like “We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic” it’s safe to say Foxygen goes places. The question being: “Does it feel genuine? Or does it feel like an imitation?”

My immediate reaction was The Rolling Stones circa 1967’s Their Satanic Majesties Request but with less wizards. The vocals have that hint of laid back angst like they have some gripes against “The Man” but are taking too many drugs to do anything in response. The instrumentation feels fancy and nostalgic, with a thumping bass that could make even Bill Wyman crack a smile in his 104-year old face. My favorite song “On Blue Mountain” is the most Jagger-Richards with bluesy breaks and singalong choruses. It’s a complex arrangement, like many of the arrangements on this sophomore effort, but is it too much?

After multiple listenings, I still feel overwhelmed by the girth of each track. Foxygen throws in oodles and caboodles of instruments and explores so many different sections. By the end of a five-minute track, I feel exhausted. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy a handful of moments. But if you feel overwhelmed by extravagant production, this is an album you’re going to have to work for.

“Does Foxygen feel like its own band?” Or are they just an amalgamation of the greatest hits of 1967? I’m gonna cop out and say they’re a little bit of both. I do think they rely too heavy on replicating what’s been done but at the same time, they do it at a level no one else can. They’re an intriguing band with an acquired taste. I like the taste, but for the gourmet shit, I’ll listen to actual 60s music.

Favorite Tracks: “No Destruction”, “On Blue Mountain”, “San Francisco”

Unfinished Love

Ra Ra Riot – Beta Love

Oh, so this is what this feels like. Just a few weeks ago I was defending bands that changed their sound and now I have to take the other side, because Ra Ra Riot, what are you guys doing? You were the chosen one! It was said that you would destroy the mainstream, not join them! Bring balance to the alt rock scene, not leave it in darkness! That is a paraphrased quote from Revenge of the Sith, which I think it appropriate, since this is another trilogy that has left me unsure whether I can keep caring about the franchise (that isn’t fair, I didn’t doubt my love of Star Wars until the Clone Wars).

The Rhumb Line was a hell of a debut. It was a standout album when it came out, which was 2008 – arguably the greatest year in music. It was an act that proved difficult to follow, and The Orchard, Ra Ra Riot’s second album, was even less remarkable than fellow 2008ers Vampire Weekend’s (yes, everyone likes this but me, whatever). By the time that Ra Ra Riot made it to their third album, I guess they decided they decided to completely abandon the energetic exuberance that made them great to begin with and go for a weird ’80s synthpop sound. Except wait, no, that’s a terrible idea.

If you only hear the song “What I Do for U,” you could mistake this as a terrible album. It is not. That 2.5 rating seems low, because we don’t really use the back half of the spectrum, but remember, this is just the other side of 3.5 stars. I don’t think Ra Ra Riot was cut out for making music like this, and Beta Love feels like that. It sounds as if someone forced them to make weird electronic music, perhaps by threatening their families. There’s a certain hollowness to the whole album; a pervasive sense that this just isn’t right.

But as I did my due diligence and listened to Beta Love a few times, I found a few songs that I’m kind of about. Once you get passed the whole, “Wait, who is this? Ra Ra Riot?” stage, you might find there are a few songs that you can appreciate. I think “Angel, Please” is the standout track, and the weird guitar part is “That Much” is pretty cool too. This is about on the level of a band like fun. But the thing is, it’s really hard to shake the idea that the guys who made “Ghosts Under Rocks” are singing about dancing and shit like that. They had so much heart, and it’s just gone. And that makes me sad.

Favorite Tracks: “Beta Love,” “Angel, Please,” “That Much”

The Vault: Manuary

Delta Force 2: The Colombian Connection (1990)

Man, what a piece of shit. Delta Force 2: The Colombian Connection aka Delta Force 2: Operation Stranglehold is at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to action movies. Bad acting, no plot, and ultimately forgettable. I’m shocked DF2 didn’t go straight to VHS. If you’re curious, I have not seen Delta Force 1. Though had this not had “2” in the title I’d never have known it was a sequel anyway. I chose DF2 believing it would be one of those “So bad it’s good” movies. Though I’ll admit there are some memorable moments of mind-numbing stupidity, overall this was a huge waste of time. Everyone knows about Chuck Norris jokes, but after seeing this it’s clear that the biggest joke of all is his acting career.

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T3 45: Top 10 Anticipated Movies of 2013

The least anticipated podcast of the year! 2013 is doomed to be a disappointing year, this is known. It is probably going to be the year the public starts to turn against super hero movies and maybe sci fi in general. Not that that’ll stop us from looking forward to the movies we’ll get to see. After all, we’re nothing if not optimistic. Just really, really reservedly optimistic.

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The Vault: Manuary

Kickboxer (1989)

Kickboxer was my first experience watching “The Muscles from Brussels.” If you don’t remember the 90s, Jean-Claude Vane Damme was a second-tier action star famously known for his ability to do extreme splits and speak almost unintelligible dialogue. He was No Schwarzenegger or Stallone, but I’m sure he’d of had no problem kicking Steven Seagal in his many chins without even breaking a sweat. Van Damme’s strength as an action star was that he actually had a background in professional martial arts and kickboxing. Meaning Kickboxer must have come from a very personal place. Van Damme even co-developed the story. The only problem is that the story is basically Karate Kid in Thailand.

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